WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is rushing to approve one final wave of large-scale mining and energy projects in state sponsored by investors seeking to ensure the projects continue after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr takes office . be continued .
The forest service is in Arizona Preparation for deregistration on the transfer of federal forest land – considered sacred by a neighboring Indian tribe – to enable the construction of one of the largest copper mines in the country.
In Utah, the Home Office can give final approval As soon as next week a team of energy speculators targets a remote location in an iconic national wilderness area – where new energy leasing is currently banned – they can begin drilling what they believe to be a huge underground helium supply.
In northern Nevada, the department is nearby Granting final approval Construction of an extensive open pit lithium mine on federal state, which is located above a prehistoric volcano.
And in the east, the Forest Service intends to take an important step next month to make a natural gas pipeline possible built through the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia, at a point below the Appalachian Trail.
These and other projects awaiting action in the remaining weeks of the Trump administration reflect intense pressure from the Home Office to conduct the controls 480 Millions of acres of public land and the forest service running another 193 Millions of acres to find ways to increase domestic energy and mining production, even in the face of intense protests from environmentalists and other activists.
When he takes office on January 20, Mr. Biden, who has selected a Native American – Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico – to head the Home Office, will continue to have the ability to redesign, slow down, or even block certain projects .
Some, like the uranium mine in South Dakota, require further permits or face legal proceedings to stop them, such as the proposed helium drilling project in Utah. But others, like the lithium mine in Nevada, will final federal approval needed before construction can begin and will be difficult to stop for next administration.
Whether it is the last word or not, the last-minute action is just recent evidence of how the sweeping change in regulatory policy under Trump has changed the balance between environmental concerns and business, and has given business interests a significant new weight .
Mr. Trump voted former industry executives large federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior departmentIndustry executives and lobbyists importing and exporting in government positions were given considerable leverage in setting regulations.
For the past four years, Mr. Trump’s team and his allies have been campaigning to roll back federal regulations protecting the state and the country’s air and water, as well as other safety regulations in government agencies. The changes were often made in direct response to requests from lobbyists and corporate executives who were major donors to Mr. Trump and frequent customers at his hotels and resorts.
The final push for the mining and energy projects came in part from senior officials in the Trump administration, including Trade Secretary Wilbur Ross, a steel industry investor, before joining Mr. Trump’s cabinet.
Mr. Ross’ calendar shows at least three Events With top managers in Rio Tinto, the Australian-based mining giant is supporting the Resolution Copper mine planned for construction in Arizona next to the San Carlos Apache reservation. Mr. Ross made one too Trip to the mine Page this year.
“This is a disaster,” said Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former San Carlos Apache chief who has camped on the proposed mining site in the Tonto National Forest for the past few weeks to protest the imminent decision.
Supporters of these projects say they are committed to minimizing the impact on public land, Native American holy sites, and wildlife.
“Our science-based decisions are legally compliant and based on a comprehensive process that includes input from professional professionals and the public,” said Richard Packer, Home Office spokesman, adding that the agency “continues to develop safely and responsibly natural resources in harmony with the conservation of important surface resources. “
The government has tried to encourage the mining of key minerals such as uranium, copper and lithium to make the United States less dependent Imports.
However, the environmental impact of these projects will be significant if they proceed as planned.
Last month the Environmental Protection Agency announced their final approval to build a new uranium mine called the Dewey-Burdock Project, which covers 12,613 acres near the Black Hills region of South Dakota.
The project would inject a chemical called Lixiviant in over 1,461 wellsand sent the chemical to a underground water supply. The chemical would cause uranium trapped in sandstone subsurface to enter the aquifer, contaminate the water, but trap, extract, and convert the uranium into what is known as a yellow cake that can be used to power nuclear power plants.
National, only £ 174,000 Uranium was produced in the United States last year. The South Dakota project alone would have the potential to produce as much as possible a million pounds of uranium a yearHowever, it is unclear whether there will ever be enough demand to justify production at this level, given that overcapacity is already present in the country’s uranium mines.
The Oglala Lakota Nation, whose 2.8 million hectare reserve borders the planned uranium mine, has sued to block the project. The mine would be built on land owned by the Sioux tribe long claimed was illegally taken from the United States.
“The voice of the indigenous people needs to be heard – and Indian federal policy has made us invisible and dehumanized,” he said Kyle White, 34, member of the Lakota Tribe and former director of the Natural Resources Regulatory Agency.
A small part of the project is located on the interior ministry’s land. The department has Not approved yet the mine and will not act until Mr Trump leaves office, one of several ways the Biden administration could slow down or block the project.
Azarga uraniumThe project’s Canada-based backer did not respond to a request for comment.
For the proposed Dissolution of the copper mine, east of Phoenix in the Tonto National ForestIn addition to the Apache tribal land, the forest service is expected to publish its long-awaited final environmental review in mid-January.
Sixty days after the rating was published, a 2,422-acre stretch of Tonto Forest, an area called Oak Flat, will be automatically transferred to the mining companies to provide nearby land. This was ordered by Congress in 2014.
The Ministry of the Interior National Register of Historic Places lists The Oak Flat area as a “sacred place and ancestral home of the Western Apache Indians”, which is also “a place for the Apache’s continued participation in traditional social activities and is linked to traditions rooted in the history of the tribe” .
Under the current Forest Service plan, much of Oak Flat would eventually be destroyed. About six years after the underground blasting and extraction began in the mine, the mine will gradually collapse and form almost a crater two miles wide and up to 1,100 feet deep, according to federal estimates.
The project would create 3,700 jobs and supply up to a billion pounds of copper per year, a quarter of the current annual demand in the United States.
“That was one of the main reasons why President Trump acted so aggressively to reduce the bureaucratic burden for such projects,” said Ross in Remarks during his visit to the site in October.
The companies running the project – Rio Tinto and BHP, also based in Australia – have promised to build a campground outside the mine area to replace one traditionally used by Native Americans in the Oak Flat area. Rio Tinto said it was also working to make sure a nearby area called wasn’t damaged Apache jumpAccording to tribal legends, Indians who were pursued by US cavalry forces in the late 19th century jumped to their deaths.
But the anger of some members of the local San Carlos Apache tribe towards Rio Tinto only grew after the company admitted Use of dynamite to destroy a 46,000 year old sacred indigenous site in Australia while expanding an iron ore mine.
A forest service official working on the Arizona project recently confirmed on a conference call to community leaders that the pressure to quickly evaluate the project was “top-level” and mentioned the Department of Agriculture overseeing the service.
The federal documents show that the environmental study will be continued until recently and probably until mid-2021. It should now be completed by mid-January. An agency spokeswoman did not respond when asked to comment on allegations that the process was being accelerated. However, Andrew Lye, the Resolution Copper project manager, said the review actually took longer than expected and was very thorough.
“It’s not accelerating, and Resolution Copper has not tried to request programs that are available to accelerate projects,” Lye said.
Another mining project awaiting imminent action by the Trump administration is in rural Nevada, where Canada is based Lithium Americas intends to build one of the largest lithium mines in the world 5,500 acres of state controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.
Lithium is an important component in countless batteries, including those used in cell phones and electric cars, however almost none of it is made in the United States.
The project was listed in July from the interior department as one that intended to “speed up” and it planned to take the final step Early January, which means construction of the mine could start soon.
However, the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental review recognizes that the project will cause damage, including the habitat of an endangered species of bird known as the sage grouse. Local ranchers and other families have raised concerns Comments to the agency that the project could disrupt the available local water supply and cause other environmental problems.
Attempting to approve some of the projects involved continued lobbying and legal efforts by hired advisors closely associated with the Trump administration.
This includes Rebecca Watson, who was the senior home office officer in charge of oil and gas leasing during the Bush administration and who at the time worked with David L. Bernhardt, who is now home secretary.
Mrs. Watson worked with other industry players over several Years to Call on legislators and senior Home Office officials to change the rules so their customers, now Colorado’s Twin Bridges, have been able to mine helium from states, including land leased Twin Bridges in Utah, for more than a decade.
Ms. Watson said in an interview that increasing the supply of helium is critical to the nation. “Helium has a lot of weird little uses that people aren’t even familiar with, but they’re really important,” she said.
With time running out for the Trump administration, senior Home Office officials were so determined to approve the permit that they took control of the project from the local Utah office. The final measure is now expected in the coming week, two agency officials said, despite the fact that Agency itself confirmed again that the project will harm the area. environmentalist filed a lawsuit on December 14th to try to block it.
David Wallace, a senior executive at Twin Bridges, said the project could ultimately generate hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and tax payments to federal, state and local governments.
“We love these countries too and are committed to ensuring that our project improves them, not harms them,” he said in a statement.
Opponents of the projects keep up the pressure to stop them. This includes Mr. Nosie, who camps most nights in the sacred Oak Flat, which could soon be relocated to Rio Tinto.
“To me, this is an invasion of an alien power,” said Nosie. “We cannot afford to lose our identity and our history. Imagine if the biblical Mount Sinai became a place of mining and collapsed and disappeared. You wouldn’t watch and watch. “
Lisa Friedman contributed to the coverage.